Jerusalem tunnel yields glimpses of ancient war

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On the eve of Tisha B’Av, artefacts were exposed that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. A sword in a scabbard that belonged to a Roman soldier and an engraving of the Temple’s menorah on a stone object were discovered during work the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted in the 2,000 year old drainage channel between the City of David and the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden. The channel served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans during the destruction of the Second Temple. 

A worker with the Israel’s Antiquities Authority shows a sword found in what archaeologists say is a 2,000-year-old drainage tunnel leading to Jerusalem’s Old City, at the IAA’s offices in Jerusalem, Monday, Aug. 8, 2011. On Monday, archaeologists from the IAA unveiled a standard-issue Roman legionnaire’s sword found during excavations of an ancient drainage tunnel beneath Jerusalem, late last month. The excavation of the tunnel has yielded new artefacts from a war here 2,000 years ago, archaeologists said Monday, shedding light on a key episode of the past buried under today’s politically combustible city [Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP]

During the course of work the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel, which begins in the Siloam Pool and runs from the City of David to the archaeological garden (near the Western Wall), impressive finds were recently discovered that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. The excavations are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the City of David Foundation. 

A 2,000 year old iron sword, still in its leather scabbard, was discovered in work the Israel Antiquities Authority is doing in the channel, which served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction. In addition, parts of the belt that carried the sword were found. 

According to the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, “It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. The sword’s fine state of preservation is surprising: not only its length (c. 60 cm), but also the preservation of the leather scabbard (a material that generally disintegrates quickly over time) and some of its decoration”. 

A worker of the Israel’s Antiquities Authority shows a menora carved on stone, that was found in what archaeologists say is a 2,000-year-old drainage tunnel leading to Jerusalem’s Old City, at the IAA’s offices in Jerusalem, Monday, Aug. 8, 2011. On Monday, archaeologists from the IAA presented a menora, a seven-branched Jewish candelabra that was one of the central features of the Temple, carved on stone, found during excavations of an ancient drainage tunnel beneath Jerusalem, late last month. The excavation of the tunnel has yielded new artefacts from a war here 2,000 years ago, archaeologists said Monday, shedding light on a key episode of the past buried under today’s politically combustible city [Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP]

A stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah was found in the soil beneath the street, on the side of the drainage channel. According to Shukron and Professor Reich, “Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah’s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped”. 

The fact that the stone object was found at the closest proximity to the Temple Mount to date is also important. The researchers suppose a passerby who saw the menorah with his own eyes and was amazed by its beauty incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed his scrawling to the side of the road, without imagining that his creation would be found 2,000 years later.  

Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs [August 08, 2011]

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